'Pension Is For Survival Which Cannot Be Attached' : NCDRC Directs SBI To De-Freeze Pensioner's Account [Read Order]

Rejecting a revision petition filed by State Bank of India, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC) upheld the orders passed by the District Forum and State Commission which had directed the Bank to de-freeze the account of one Manika Sarkar, in which her monthly pension was credited.

The account was held Manika Sarkar jointly with her son, who was an employee of the Bank. She was a widow of a defence personnel and her family pension used to be credited to her saving account jointly held with her son. A criminal case of misappropriation of bank funds was registered against Sarkar's son. Stating this ground, the bank froze the account, and all transactions in it became barred.

In this circumstance, Sarkar filed consumer complaint, contending that the freezing of account deprived her of monthly pension, which was her sole source of sustenance. The Bank opposed the plea contending that Sarkar was not a consumer within the meaning of Consumer Protection Act. It further advanced that the account was not a pension account, but a joint-savings account in which her pension amount was credited at her request.

The District Forum passed an interim order directing the bank to permit the Sarkar to operate the account to withdraw the pension amount. It also held that she cannot withdraw any other amount except pension. "Pension is meant for survival of the pension holder, which cannot be attached or withheld by anyone", observed the District Forum.

"Pension is meant for survival of the pension holder and prima facie ther is urgency. Hence, if the amount is not withdrawn, the respondent will suffer irreparable loss and injury", the District Forum had held

The State Commission dismissed the appeal filed by Bank against this order. It held that Sarkar cannot be made to suffer due to offence committed by her son, who incidentally was a joint holder of the account in question.

Assailing this, the Bank approached the NCDRC. The NCDRC declined interference, noting no irregularity in the orders passed by authorities below. It held that Sarkar was a "consumer" as she had a joint account in the bank, where her pension was regularly deposited. "She cannot be made to suffer, only due to the reason that she was having a joint account with her son, who had allegedly committed an offence. The petitioner bank had no reason to withhold pension", the Commission observed.

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